A new state law passed last year now increases the penalties for failure to report any suspected child abuse. And, a child abuse awareness advocate partnered with child welfare officials to make sure Floridians are aware of the signs in their newly-launched “Don’t Miss the Signs” campaign.
Under a previous state law, only caregivers, like parents and legal guardians, were required to report the abuse of a child under their care. But, now, with a new law that passed and went into effect last year, there are tougher penalties in place to make sure all abuse is reported.
For example, a person who knowingly fails to report known or suspected child abuse could now face a third degree felony charge, instead of a first degree misdemeanor. They could also face a $5,000 fine.
“And, today, our call volume is up 16-percent. We receive about 500 calls a month related to people hearing about or witnessing abuse or calling that abuse in,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins.
Wilkins says since the law took effect last year, the Florida Abuse Hotline is now hearing about more reports of abuse. But, he says every day, thousands of child abuse goes unreported, which is why his department is working to make the public more aware through Public Service Announcements, like this one:
The PSA is part of a multimedia campaign called “Don’t Miss the Signs” spearheaded by Lauren Book, a childhood abuse survivor herself, who says she wants to make sure Floridians really don’t miss the signs of an abused child.
“For example, in school-aged children, if a child is missing school. If a child is in school and is withdrawn, if they startle easily, if they were at one point completely potty-trained and now have regressed, and are wetting the bed, sucking their thumb, showing regression in age," said Book. "Those are a lot of signs that something is up and you need to look into reporting something that you suspect is going on.”
Book says through campaigns like “Don’t Miss the Signs” and initiatives like her “Safer, Smarter Kids program,” which educates kids about child abuse, she still feels there’s more to be done.
“We spend zero time before ‘Safer Smarter Kids’ came along educating our children in prevention. Pedophiles spend 100-percent of their time thinking about how they’re going to fend against our children. Now I was never good at math, but I know that’s not good math, and we need to do more. It’s our duty and our obligation,” remarked Book.
In addition to PSAs, Floridians will soon see billboards and posters as part of the “Don’t Miss the Signs” campaign. Book is also encouraging Floridians to sign an online pledge on the website DontMissTheSigns.org.
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